Welcome UGA builds community
Students play Uno together during the Game Night event at the Tate Student Center on Aug. 5.
WelcomeUGA creates friendships, builds community
By Marilyn Primovic
As another August arrives in Athens, campus is humming with events to gather incoming students together as part of the UGA community.
“You are in a new place, but you are a bulldog now,” said Taylor Cain, associate director of the Tate Student Center and director of the Center for Student Activities & Involvement.
The campus-wide initiative, titled “WelcomeUGA,” invites new and returning students to engage with campus and get involved in their areas of interest. More than 800 student organizations, offices, and departments stand ready to greet new students by hosting these events.
“These events allow students to meet others and build community on campus, as well as having the opportunity to just have fun,” said Cain.
Cain explained how this fun ultimately creates an environment where students can be successful academically because they feel supported and included.
A group of students play spike ball at the Late Night Field Day in the Ramsey Student Center Aug. 8.
UGA Student Affairs, which leads the initiative, says they aim to offer something to support every type of incoming student.
“You might be a grad student with a family, and you can bring your children,” said Cain. “It is our hope that all students feel included and will enjoy these events.”
Cain said they also work to ensure transfer students feel welcomed to the community.
“After a student graduates, everyone has the same degree on their wall,” she said. “No matter at what point you enter into the institution, we want your time here to contribute to your overall success in life.”
The Watty College Student Ministry pastor, Vic Doss, poses with a family moving a student into their new dorm on Aug. 5.
Hundreds of students, faculty and staff volunteered with University Housing’s “Hunker Down with Housing” program to help with the move-in process. Many student organizations seek to find unique ways to welcome incoming students to the community, and see move-in as an excellent opportunity.
Watty College Student Ministry helped freshmen move their belongings into Russell Hall. Brittany Wenrich, member of Watty College, said she enjoyed filling and rolling move-in carts for freshmen because it meant she got to help ease their nerves.
“I just wanted to encourage them and get them hype for their first year as a Dawg,” said Wenrich.
“I really wanted to help people move because I know how stressful it can be,” said Lesly Gramajo, Hunker Down with Housing volunteer. “I just wanted to be the first welcoming face that they see after their drive to Athens.”
Deja Taylor, a resident assistant, said she encouraged the residents on her floor to attend the WelcomeUGA events the week before classes.
“I hope my freshmen get involved and meet people so it doesn’t feel like such a big scary school,” she said.
Hunker Down for Housing volunteers, Lesly Gramajo and Denise Carter, pose in their volunteer t-shirts on Aug. 6.
Many students enjoyed Film on the Fifty, which was a collaboration between the Center for Student Activities & Involvement and Athletics. Even though the event was moved from Sanford Stadium indoors to Tate Grand Hall due to weather, students still showed up in great numbers to watch the newest Avengers movie with their newest friends.
Jasmine Greshman and Ore Badejoh, who did not know each other before becoming roommates, went to the event together.
“WelcomeUGA events have helped me bond with my roommate, Jasmine,” said Badejoh. “It’s so great to have this opportunity to socialize and have activities that help bring the freshmen into the UGA community.”
On their way to Film on the Fifty, Badejoh and Greshman ran into Hitomi Osaka, a high school friend of Badejoh.
“Just now, I met Hitomi through my new roommate, and she is really cool,” said Greshman. “I feel like these events help me feel more comfortable in a brand new environment.”
The feelings of inclusion and comfort were apparent in the Tate Student Center as 1,100 students grooved in a “Silent Disco,” nearly 1,000 students saw their classmates put into a trance by hypnotist Chris Jones, and 750 turned strangers into friends by playing board games together.
Student Affairs said they hope incoming students feel included and build strong connections with the classmates and the university community through the WelcomeUGA initiative and campus engagement throughout their time at UGA.